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January 25, 2009

Pat Perez


JOE CHEMYCZ: With that we welcome 2009 Bob Hope Classic champion, Pat Perez in.
Pat, you were up near the top of the leaderboard all week. You had a great week. You struggled today, rallied, and came back and beat the field for your first PGA TOUR win. Talk about the emotions of the day and the struggles of the day out there against the wind and the field.
PAT PEREZ: The emotions were pretty -- I just tried to stay pretty even keeled. I knew it was going to be tough, and it seemed like for the most part it was just really me and Stricker for a while, and then Stricker had a bad hole on 10, and then it was just me and Merrick. And I figured if I could just play solid and hit some good shots and kind of stay calm and just think about what I'm doing out there, I was going to be fine.
The weather was tough and I think that kind of helped me, because if the weather was perfect, you never know. Someone could have shot 60 or 61. So I actually didn't mind the wind blowing all the way around. But it was definitely tough.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Talk about what it means to earn your first win, especially in this tournament with the history and the names associated with it.
PAT PEREZ: I tell you, obviously, I didn't get to meet Mr. Hope, but if he's anything like Mr. Palmer, then he had to be unbelievable. It must have been something with Mr. Hope and Mr. Palmer and back in the day with all their celebrity friends, I can only imagine.
But I think it's special. I feel privileged to win the tournament that Mr. Palmer won 50 years ago, and now he's back hosting it. I feel honored that he was there to shake my hand when I got done, and he's such a legend that it's just a great feeling on top of everything else.

Q. Does this erase some of the stigma of what happened at Pebble Beach in 2002?
PAT PEREZ: That's up to you guys. Jesus Christ, I hope so. If I got to answer any more Pebble questions after this...
I mean, it's up to you guys. I hope you guys will drop it, especially you, Rude.

Q. Pat, you're a relatively fast player. Virtually all the rounds were over five hours, one was five and a half. How did you deal with the slow pace? What do you do out there to slow down your pace when, in fact, you're a quick player?
PAT PEREZ: I had great amateurs. The first four days, we had a great time. You talk to them about anything. These guys are in the world of anything, business world. These guys, you can learn a lot from these guys. We had a good time. We told jokes and stories, and we had powwows and let's make some birdies and all kind of stuff. It was -- it's a fun event for me.
I've gotten a lot better with pro-am stuff, and I'm starting to enjoy it more. Because when you play with the pros all the time, you don't -- nobody talks to anybody, and I kind of like to talk. So the length, it was long, but you know it's going to be long when you get into it. It's like Pebble's going to be, and you just kind of deal with it.

Q. So do we look for you to be another Lee Trevino?

Q. Just kidding.

Q. Pat, is this one going to mean more because of the way you had to do it today? It was really up-and-down, and then you just hung in there the whole time. How much does that mean to do it the way you did it?
PAT PEREZ: It means a lot. I'll bring it up. Pebble, like that time at Pebble, I had a four-shot lead, but it was tough, and I don't think people realized how tough it was that day, blowing off the ocean 50 miles an hour. And I hadn't been used to that. I only played Pebble when it was perfect, and it was a completely different course. But I wasn't really ready to be thrown in that situation where I had to hit great shots and contend with the best in the world. And today, I knew that I was ready. Even if I didn't win, I knew I was still ready. It was still going to be a good year, and because I was prepared. I prepared myself all week. I played all winter to get ready for this in the same desert, and it just means the world.

Q. Just to follow-up, what was your thought process on 18 once you see Merrick doesn't birdie, and you have the lead, what was going through your mind, because I know even your buddies were like, Oh, man, what's going to happen?
PAT PEREZ: I don't lay up. I don't lay up. I hit a 6-iron. I mean how hard is it? It's downwind. You got a hundred yards to hit it up there. I'm not going to lay up with an L wedge over here and hit L wedge over here. It's 6-iron. I was going to hit it.
I hit it right just in, just left of the bunker. If I hit it anywhere on land, the worst I can make is five, and I still win. But I had two mind sets. I was going to wait to see what he did. If he made four, I got to hit a good shot because I got to make four, because I'm not going to playoff. It's getting cold out there. So I'm just going to hit it inside. I don't think I could have hit that shot again, to be honest with you. Even if I had to do it, I couldn't hit it again. There's no way, because the wind was swirling and the whole deal, and I couldn't hit that shot again. It's a long time coming, and I'm going to enjoy it.

Q. What did you do specifically to deal with the wind and how difficult did it get during the course of the day?
PAT PEREZ: It blew 45, so I would imagine that would be on the tough scale. Didn't do anything. I just hit normal shots. I hit the shots, and I just kind of flighted it a little different, and I just kind of played smart. I just kind of hit it around the course and tried not to make too many mistakes.

Q. Some of the people in your camp talk about how you are calmer, more peaceful out there. Can you address that and would you concur with that?
PAT PEREZ: Yeah, I definitely would. I just got tired of getting upset all the time. It's a lot of energy. So I just said -- I started watching, not watching, but I see how -- I learned from how the best guys do it. How Tiger does it, Phil does it, Vijay, Toms, Zach Johnson, Ernie, all these guys are all pretty even keeled. They don't let things bother them. They put stuff behind them.
Before, if I made double on five, the tournament was over. I look at that as just a speed bump now. I had plenty of holes left I could make a lot of birdies coming in. The wind picked up and I actually liked that because it got tougher and people couldn't catch us. And now I knew it was going to be a two-man race, and if I played well, I thought I would come in as champion.

Q. Was it tough? You talked about the double on five, put that behind you, and then on six, though, your second shot hit a woman, and you had to go over there. Is it tough to maintain that?
PAT PEREZ: I've hit a lot of people. But, yeah, it sucks, but I got a good kick. I got a good kick off her, which was nice (laughter).
I still made five, but you never know. She was standing right by the cart path. I think it could have hit the cart path and been out of bounds. Who the hell knows? And then it really could have been over.

Q. Specifically on 10, what were the conditions, the wind when Stricker had to hit three tee shots there, was that tough to watch?
PAT PEREZ: Yeah, that was tough. He's such an unbelievable guy. He's one of the nicest guys, and he's always rooted for me, and he's always just kind of given me a little advice. And he's just one of those unbelievable guys. I have been happy with his success, and it was great to see him on the Ryder Cup team and win and enjoy that, and Comeback Player of the Year. He just is one of those guys that I always root for because he's been awesome ever since I met him.
It was tough to watch, but I've had that day. I've been there. So I feel for him, and it sucks, but that's just the way it goes, and he obviously will be back.

Q. Two questions, you mentioned the work you put in this offseason. It was a lot of work. You practiced out here. Was that the hardest work you put in in any offseason in your career?
PAT PEREZ: Yeah, I usually just screw around and play and have some drinks and whatever, but this time it was serious. I got to a point in my career, after seven years now, that I was just tired of being average. I was tired of being nobody. And I know that can I play and I want to play. I want to be on Couples' team this year. I saw a lot of him in the offseason and he told me I better make the team because he's not picking me, because I always make fun of him. So he said, You better make the team because I'm not picking you, even if you're 11.
So I want to play on Corey's team. These are things I want to do, and it really is going to take some hard work, but I'm willing to do it.

Q. So, basically, the fact that you now have that first win so early in 2009, does that change your outlook at all? I know it only is a half hour.
PAT PEREZ: I don't care. I'm going to Kapalua, finally. I don't care. I've been bitching about not going there for so long, but I'm going. I cannot wait. No, I'm looking forward to this year. This year's going to be -- I see some good things coming. I would like to win two, three times. The way I played this week, I don't see why it couldn't happen and it's going to be -- it's good either way. But it's nice to win early.

Q. That scene we saw on 18, after you won, we haven't seen in a while, probably won't see it in a while. When you look at those faces, everything from your brother, to Burrell, to TA, to Gore, your dad, what does it mean that these people have obviously supported you through all this time?
PAT PEREZ: Everyone, they're like brothers to me. They really are. I got a big group of friends, but we're all close. We all -- I have a close friendship with all of them in some way or another. These guys all came from California and Vegas and Scottsdale last night to come and root me on, and that is, that's awesome. That really is awesome. And they're happier than I am, I guarantee it. They're going to be ruined tonight. I mean, these guys won't be able to stand in an hour. There's no way.
But it's just awesome. I have friends all over this nation, and from superstars to musicians and actors and that, and I'm good friends with a lot of people. And their support is just incredible. That's what keeps me going. That's what makes me try as hard as I do, and I get little talks every now and then from certain people.
And TA's been like a dad to me ever since I got on TOUR. I played with him the last round of Q-School in 2001. He's taken me under his wing and he's introduced me to a thousand people, and he's been incredible. And then Gore was out there today, and he's been like a brother to me ever since Golden State TOUR. So I could just run down the line. But I got neighbors that came, and I got sponsors that came, and I got my brother and family and friends. I've had a lot of people here today, and it was just -- that's what kept me going, because it's nice to have a corner.

Q. Armour would probably prefer "big brother" than "father."
PAT PEREZ: He says father. He says, I love you like a son (laughter).

Q. Your swing change, from upright and steep to around and shallow. With Abbott, when did that kick in and where did you feel like, I've got it, I feel more lethal?
PAT PEREZ: The first week I worked with him the next week we were working, the first day even, and he says, I think you can win with this next week. I thought, there's no way, Mike, this is an unbelievable change. And it was Congressional the next week. And I said, I'll be lucky to finish, that course is so hard. And I finished 12th. And I thought, that's pretty good.
I kind of struggled a little bit and then the Majors were tough, obviously, and it's taken a lot -- I've hit a lot of balls in the last eight months to get it to where I really know where the hell this thing is going now and I can feel confident and I -- I wasn't that nervous today really playing the back nine at all, because I knew where the ball was going. I knew if I got it set and I got this here at impact, the ball was going straight. And I got on 18 tee and I said, hey, I got to make four. I told my caddie, I said, we got to make four. So I'll just stand up -- there's two ways to do it, you can get nervous and not hit it well or you can stand up their confident like Tiger does and know you're going to hit a good shot. And I did. And it was just a great feeling to have that confidence on the back nine. I have not had that confidence any time I've ever been in contention. So it was awesome.

Q. How much did the wind affect the shot you hit in the water?
PAT PEREZ: None. I just over cooked it. I had to hit it hard, and I had to draw it to get it there and I just overdid it. That was that.

Q. You didn't go for the green on 2. On 14, was there a lot of thought that went into that or was that --
PAT PEREZ: There wasn't one thought about it. It wasn't one thought about it. Why would I go for the pin? At that point I got a two-shot lead and I got to hit it on a postage stamp into the wind. I couldn't get there anyway. It was actually great it was into the wind, because I couldn't get there anyway. There was never a thought.

Q. Did you see Merrick do it in front of you?
PAT PEREZ: No, I didn't see anything of what he was doing.

Q. Were there any moments out there where you were unsure of yourself?
PAT PEREZ: No. No. And that's a big change. Big confidence booster was the fact that I knew I could do it, and I did it. If I would have sat out there in the 18th fairway and said, you know, I can't do this, and I hit three in the water, then I would have been in trouble.

Q. What did you think about walking to the green on 18 after you had already hit it so close?
PAT PEREZ: I don't even know. I was thinking about all the people that were out there for me. And I still, it still doesn't feel like it actually happened. Once I get smashed tonight and wake up tomorrow and watch the highlights, then I'll probably realize. But I just thought -- what I thought really was, it's about time. It's about time. I put the work in, it's been just over seven years. It's about time. So I just thought I could do it.

Q. Tell us about your recent marriage and how it's affected your game.
PAT PEREZ: Well, my theory is still working one hundred percent. People either need to have children or get married, because they win right away. I got married the 13th, I won today. Paul Casey got married the day after me, he won last week. Gore had a child, he won. Sabbatini had a child, he won. It just happens.

Q. So does that mean you're going to have a child fast?
PAT PEREZ: No. No. No (laughter).
No, I'm enjoying somewhat single life still. No, we're going to enjoy this and we're just going to enjoy it. Everything in the last, from the bachelor party to today, has just been an unbelievable stretch in my life lately recently.

Q. You said, "it's about time" a couple of times. What would your peers, whether it's Armour or somebody else, say about you back during those seven years? A lot of talent but needs to calm down or needs to think better or what was the MO with other players to you?
PAT PEREZ: You know Tommy, it was, "Kid, you got to relax. Kid, you got to quit doing this and you got to quit doing this." But Tommy's right, a lot of things he was right on. He gets a bad rap for drinking and partying and all this other stuff, but this guy puts in some time. The guy is 49 years old and he's making $1.5 million on the TOUR still. That's not a mistake. he works hard on his game. He's got a great work ethic and he's got a great mindset on the course.
And you can learn a lot from a guy like that and I have. I really have. And it's nice to have veteran friends, even like Elk, Elk's given me a lot of advice in the last couple years and he's awesome, he's awesome as well.
I've learned a lot from these guys in the last couple years just watching these guys. And Tommy is a really calm, cool, collected guy, doesn't really get upset, doesn't do anything, but he works hard on his game and believes in himself. And those are good things to take with you and I've taken those with me and it's gone the right way so far.
JOE CHEMYCZ: We congratulate our champion, Pat. Best of luck the rest of the year.
PAT PEREZ: Thank you.

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